“Thanks”: The importance of appreciation and gratitude in the workplace

Showing appreciation and gratitude to your employees is simply the right thing to do—but it also helps your business succeed. Read on to learn why it matters and how you can demonstrate it in your own company.

Nick Darlington, Writer
29 September 20217 Min Read

Showing appreciation and gratitude to your employees is simply the right thing to do—but it also helps your business succeed. Read on to learn why it matters and how you can demonstrate it in your own company.

Do you know what I remember most about my very first job? 

It wasn’t the money, work environment, or culture, though this certainly played a role. Rather, it was how the job made me feel. My manager regularly thanked me, praised me for my good work, gave me pay raises, trusted me to do the job, and provided balanced feedback to help me grow.

I felt valued and, in return, worked hard and performed. 

To top things off, I was met with a performance bonus and a contract saying my job was secure if I returned within three months, even though I had already told the company I was leaving to travel. Talk about taking a gamble on someone who was, for all intents and purposes, not coming back. 

Here was a company that understood what it meant to look after its employees, the value of appreciation, and how to show genuine gratitude. More and more companies are doing the same because they too recognize the importance of doing so—not just because it’s good for business, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

Here’s why showing appreciation in the workplace matters, and how you can demonstrate it to employees.

Why employee appreciation is essential in the workplace

Being appreciated makes people feel good. And, people who feel good are more likely to impart those feelings onto others, whether through random acts of kindness, generosity, or a smile. It’s a positive cycle that spills over into all aspects of someone’s life and the life of others, leading to even more appreciation and happiness over time. 

There’s a scientific explanation for these positive emotions and feelings. Every time we receive or express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin. These two important neurotransmitters regulate our emotions—making us feel good, promoting happiness from within, and enhancing our mood.

Beyond the positive impact appreciation and gratitude have on our lives, they’re also good for business.

Better performance

According to research conducted by Front in conjunction with Dr. Ron Friedman, members of high-performing teams receive nearly two times the appreciation from their teammates each month and nearly two times the appreciation from their managers compared to other teams. They also express almost 11 times more appreciation to their team members compared to seven and a half times per month for other teams.

This research suggests a link between appreciation and better work performance. It also supports findings of other studies like this one from the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. Researchers found that teams performed better when their colleagues showed appreciation, affirmation, and respect. 

Stronger employee engagement 

Employee engagement describes the extent to which employees love their jobs and are committed to a company and its goals. It drives customer service, workplace productivity, and profits. 

There are many ways to engage employees but showing appreciation and gratitude is one of the most effective. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that 93 percent of employees who reported feeling valued said they were motivated to do their best work, and 88 percent said they were engaged. 

These findings align with an Achievers 2020 Engagement and Retention Report, which discovered that the second biggest factor hindering engagement was a lack of appreciation. 

Better employee retention

According to the same Achievers Report, not feeling valued was also the third most common reason for employees leaving their company. The implications of this are apparent: employees who feel appreciated are more loyal than those who aren’t. 

They tend to stay longer at a company, which reduces retention costs and improves the company’s bottom line. 

How leaders can show appreciation and gratitude to employees 

Harvard Business Review highlights how leaders often struggle to implement employee recognition programs, with many becoming just another box to tick.

Others, still, while having the best of intentions, struggle to express genuine gratitude and appreciation, leading to assumptions that employees know how they feel about them and their work.   

The truth? Showing appreciation isn’t complicated. It’s actually pretty easy and mostly involves focusing on the little things and using a little common sense.

Here are a few of the simplest ways you can start showing your appreciation to employees. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to start a conversation with your employees about what would make them feel appreciated. 

Reaching out, showing vulnerability, and being willing to improve and make the workplace a better place for all will go a long way toward building trust. It’ll show your employees you truly care—and that really is what this is all about. Don’t overthink it!

1. Build reward systems

Reward systems can help build a company culture of appreciation. For example, at Front, we use Bonusly—the recognition and rewards app. Employees can publicly praise, thank, and recognize others by sending bonuses that the receiver can convert into meaningful rewards like gift cards and donations. 

2. Create recognition moments

These are moments where you publicly recognize someone for doing great work or even living out your company culture. For example, at Front, we have a Fronteer of the Week where employees nominate a teammate for living out the company values and doing incredible work. They get a small Lego trophy (when we’re in the office), and it’s announced in All Hands weekly. 

3. Check in with employees regularly through meetings

Checking in with employees prevents them from feeling invisible. These check-ins don’t have to feel like a drain on the overall workplace productivity. Consider having short in-person meetings and weekly All Hands to discuss company goals, share mistakes and learnings, and encourage open communication.

Team meetings that encourage open communication can be especially useful in helping prevent burnout as they destigmatize workplace stress.

Related reading: 6 initiatives we use to fuel strong internal communication at Front.

4. Provide balanced feedback

Part of feeling valued as an employee is receiving balanced feedback. If feedback is always negative, an employee will feel like they’re never doing anything right. Conversely, if it’s always positive, it will make them question whether the feedback is actually sincere. 

Therefore, you need to praise good work and balance it against constructive feedback to help employees grow, so they feel like any praise is more valid. Front CEO Mathilde Collin shared her advice for getting better at giving and receiving feedback.

5. Promote employees for doing good work

This should be a no-brainer for companies. 

Promoting staff for consistently doing good work increases loyalty. The promotion can take the form of a new job title coupled with a monetary reward (higher salary).

6. Support causes that are important to employees

Doing group fundraisers to support causes that employees value shows you’re invested in things that matter to them. For example, at DocuSign, the company matches the contributions its employees make to social justice organizations.

Related reading: 7 lessons on low-ego leadership from DocuSign CEO Dan Springer.

7. Pay attention to special moments in peoples’ lives

Recognizing big moments in employees’ lives also shows them you genuinely care. These special moments may include birthdays, graduations, marriages, or even the birth of a child. 

You can acknowledge these moments with a handwritten note, card, or even flowers.

8. Provide flexibility

The notion that performance is tied to the number of hours worked is increasingly being done away with. As a result, many leaders are offering employees more flexibility in terms of the hours they work and where they work.

While some companies are just about going all-in on remote work, many are choosing a hybrid model where people can connect and have the option to work from home. Google, for example, offers its employees three days of working from the office and two days working from home. 

And perhaps a hybrid approach is best because we are, after all, social beings who crave some connection. It’s all about balance!

Start showing your employees appreciation and gratitude today

Appreciation is an essential ingredient of high-performing teams. Organizations that champion it simply because it’s the right thing to do will see happier employees who are more engaged, more loyal, and more hard-working.

How you choose to show appreciation is, of course, entirely up to you. We simply shared a few strategies to help you along the way.

Just remember that showing gratitude shouldn’t be complicated. If you’re ever struggling, simplify things and have an open and honest conversation with employees. That in itself is an act of appreciation that they’ll value greatly.

Read more on how to build a high-performing team in our recent research with Dr. Ron Friedman.

Written by Nick Darlington
Originally Published: 1 February 2021
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